Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I quite like Bangkok so far. Part of the reason is my timing: the city is very quiet after the recent riots, with very few tourists wandering about. I imagine Bangkok is absolutely teeming with tourists most of the year, as the city is such an easy place to visit. Taxis are a breeze to use, especially after Mumbai, where getting them to use the meter usually required some debate, not to mention their general uninterest in picking up foreigners. Neither has been a problem in Bangkok.

Even the scams are easy to deal with. Rule number one: never trust a tuk-tuk driver. The tuk-tuk is like an auto-rickshaw, a three-wheeler with a 2-stroke motor and open-air but covered seating. As an obvious foreigner, tuk-tuk drivers incessantly ask me where I am going and then try to divert me to another place, usually by saying that what I want to see is closed today. The best part is that all the tuk-tuk drivers seem to say the same things. Everyday is apparently Buddhas birthday, and the place they all want to take you is the same: the tall standing Buddha statue. I havent seen this Buddha just yet, as there are temples everywhere, but maybe Ill stumble upon him one day. But I am certainly not taking a tuk-tuk as everything they have told me was closed was actually open.

At night, tuk-tuk drivers switch from the standing Buddha to the fabled ping-pong show. Bangkok, ping-pong show...You can probably figure it out yourself. Hint, they dont ask women to go (though I've been wondering what they offer instead).

The two most common building typologies Ive experienced here are temples and shopping malls. Both are quite nice, and built to incredible proportions. Like the temples strewn all over the city, different mall complexes spread throughout downtown, connected by pedestrian bridges above and parking garages below. One such mall, the World Central complex, was set on fire during the riots, leading to some very serious damage to the first 4-6 floors of the building.

As terrible as that is, I think the three major malls around it can more than cover it during reconstruction. Bangkok must be the shopping capital of southeast Asia though, from the stunning stores Ive seen in the malls. The bookstores put most in the US to shame, and that's just the English section.

Anyways, tomorrow will be a bit of a change. Flying to Dhaka, Bangladesh in the morning for the next week. I think I might just miss the city of malls and temples (though not the tuk-tuks).

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